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On this episode of Dare to Lead

This episode is the second of a two-part series on feedback, and Barrett is back to take it to the next level and dig into engaged feedback with me. As you know, Barrett is chief of staff for Brené Brown Education and Research Group and one of my sisters, and together, we go through the 11 elements of the Engaged Feedback Checklist. It’s a practical tool, and we talk about the real and tangible ways it’s changed how we approach giving feedback and leading tough conversations.

About the guest

Barrett Guillen headshot

Barrett Guillen

Barrett Guillen is (OFFICIALLY) Chief of Staff for Brené Brown Education and Research Group and (UNOFFICIALLY) the boss of Brené. With her team, Barrett supports both Brené and the organization by helping to prioritize competing demands, managing relationships, and building connective tissue and strategy across all business initiatives. Barrett holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Kinesiology from the University of Houston. After more than a decade in education in the Texas Panhandle, Barrett and her family made the move back to the Houston area to join the BBEARG team in making the world a braver place.  Having the opportunity to work with her sisters everyday has been one of the great joys of her life. Outside the office, you can find Barrett spending time with her family (immediate and extended), enjoying her daughter’s games, eating her husband’s famous burgers, floating in the water (any water!), or on the pickle ball court.

Show notes

Dare to Lead _ Brené Brown MSW

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures. Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It’s learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts.


Brené Brown: Hi, everyone, I’m Brené Brown, and this is Dare to Lead. And welcome back, Barrett.

Barrett Guillen: Hi.

BB: We are back for part two of our episodes on feedback. So, part one was “The Hardest Feedback that We’ve Ever Received,” and then we really got into some…

BG: Life-changing information.

BB: Yeah, we really did. It was just weird, it unfolded in real time for me like, “Wow, I do know some of these things, and I don’t talk about them because I’m in a hammock on the balcony.” If you didn’t listen to the first episode, that will make no sense, but do know that I like balconies and hammocks. So, in this one, we’re going to talk about our engaged feedback checklist, and I want to read to you for a little bit from Daring Greatly, if that’s okay with y’all before we start, to let you know kind of how the checklist came to be. So, let me tell you a little bit about… It’s about my first experience giving feedback to a professor and also getting feedback from a professor when I was pumped up for something aggressive and combative, and how she forever changed the way I think about giving and receiving feedback and how this encounter really led to the engaged feedback checklist.

BB: Okay, I’m going to read to you. It’s in a section in Daring Greatly on page 202, if you have the book, and the section header is “Sitting On The Same Side Of The Table,” “In my social work training, a lot of attention was paid to how we talk to people, even down to where and how we sit. For example, I would never talk to a client across a desk; I would walk around my desk and sit in a chair across from the client so there would be nothing big and bulky between us. I remember the first time I went to see one of my social work professors about a grade. She got up from behind her desk and asked me to take a seat at a small round table she had in her office. She pulled up a chair and sat next to me. In armoring up for that conversation, I had pictured her sitting behind her big metal desk and me defiantly sliding my paper across it and demanding an explanation for my grade. After she sat down next to me, I put my paper on the table.  As she said, ‘I’m so glad that you came in to talk to me about your paper. You did a great job on this; I loved your conclusion,’ and patted me on the back, I awkwardly realized that we were on the same side of the table. Totally discombobulated, I blurted, ‘Thank you. I worked really hard on that paper.’  She nodded and said, ‘I can tell. Thank you. I took some points off your grade for your APA formatting. I’d like for you to focus on that and get it cleaned up. You should submit this for publication, and I don’t want the reference formatting to hold you back.’ I was so confused. She thinks this is publishable? She liked it? Then she asked, ‘Do you need some help with the APA formatting? It’s tricky and it took me years to get it down,’ she asked. Which was a great example of normalizing. I told her that I’d fix the references and I asked her if she’d look at my revisions. She happily agreed and gave me a few tips on the process. I thanked her for her time and left, grateful for my grade and for a teacher who cared as much as she did.” So, I’m sharing this story with you because I remember this situation completely. Have you ever done that, Barrett, where you like armor up for a hard conversation?

BG: Totally, yes.

BB: Yeah, like you go in, ready to go fisticuffs, if need be, like…

BG: Practicing with the steering wheel on the way in?

BB: Yeah, or laying in bed at night. Yeah, “Then, I’m going to say this and they’re going to say this and then they’re going to regret saying that, because then I’m going to say this.”

BG: I have no idea what you’re talking about.


BB: Yeah, so I had done that and the only word that comes up for me is I was so disarmed. Like when she walked, she had that big university-issued metal desk that’s 10 feet long and 10 feet wide, like a box. She came out from behind it, she had a little, almost like it was almost like a little round table with those ice cream parlor chairs. And she sat right next to me. I’m like, “Dude, you’re in my fighting space here” or like, “What’s up?”

BG: Disarmed you right off the bat.

BB: She just disarmed me right off the bat. Complimenting on the paper, told me that she could tell I worked hard on it. It was such an interesting experience, and so, when I was looking at all the data that emerged around giving and receiving feedback, I thought back to that moment, and I have to tell you that in terms of getting feedback, from the time we’re born to the time we die, we get feedback from people who are so unskilled at giving it, right?

BG: Yes. Certainly.

BB: Parents, teachers, coaches, you know, going into our first jobs, in-laws, the list is…

BG: Endless.

BB: Endless. And so… We should write that down as another podcast idea to talk about what to do with feedback that’s delivered in a shitty way, but may have some pearls in it, may have some growth opportunities in it, because I think there’s some skills building we can do around doing that. What we’re going to talk about today is this checklist, you can actually download the checklist, we’ll have it on the episode page, it’s also in the Dare to Lead hub on our website. This is the “how to know you’re ready to give feedback” checklist. Is that how you think of it, Barrett?

BG: Yes, it totally is. It’s so helpful to have it, too, because sometimes I’m like, “Nope, not ready.”

BB: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I would say I’m not ready nine times out of 10, I have to pause. And it’s tricky because I’m also a huge proponent of giving feedback very close to the time of the behavior.

BG: Oh yes, you’re very… You do.  All the time, “Have you given that feedback? You need to give it right now, 24 hours.” Yeah.

BB: And for me, it’s preferable, 24 minutes.

BG: Yes.

BB: So, let me set up a little context about kind of bigger beliefs around feedback, giving feedback. One, if it’s a behavioral feedback about something that just happened, as opposed to you’ve been reviewing a deliverable from someone for a couple of days and you’ve got concerns. If it is behavioral feedback, you need to give it as close to the behavior as possible, because behaviors have back stories, you want to use examples, you want to be very specific, and so the closer to the time when it happened, much better. Secondly, we’re two-parters. We really believe in short feedback sessions with circle backs, and I’ll tell you why.

BB: Normally, once you start to give someone some tough feedback or you get curious about something that happened, a lot of us get flooded very quickly, and so there’s no reason to draw that out for an hour. There’s no reason… If someone’s flooded, or overwhelmed with what you’re saying, they’re not going to be able to get themselves together and give it real serious thought for a couple of hours, so what we’ll normally do is, let’s say, Barrett, you and I were in a meeting and you got really pissed off and pounded your fist on the table.

BG: Okay.

BB: And so I may pull you aside right after that meeting. “Hey Barrett, do you have a second?” Let’s just role-play it out.

BG: Sure.

BB: I saw you get really upset in that meeting. It was a very frustrating meeting, I was having a hard time managing myself as well. One thing I want to talk to you about is when you got frustrated, you pounded both of your fists on the table. It is absolutely okay to get pissed off, it is not okay to do that. It scared some people in the room, some people jumped in their seats. It feels like creating unsafe space for people when we do that. Would you like to talk about what happened now? Would you like to circle back in a couple of hours? I want to talk through it with you.

BG: No, I think I’ve got it. I won’t slam my hands down on the table again.

BB: Sounds like you got that part, but I do want to talk about it with you, so we can talk about it now, or we can talk about it in a couple of hours, or when you’re ready to talk about it. What feels best?

BG: You know what? I think you’re right. I think I need a little bit of time to calm down and I would like to circle back in a couple of hours.

BB: Okay. Let me check my calendar, just a sec, I’m pulling out my phone. You want to do it from four to five? We probably only need 30 minutes.

BG: Sure, that’s great.

BB: Four o’clock, and you’re going to come to my office, you want me to come to your office? What feels best for you?

BG: I’ll come to yours.

BB: Okay, so I’ll see you in my office at four o’clock, we’ll circle back. And again, I was super pissed off in that meeting as well. I don’t think our team was treated with very much respect. I don’t think they gave us a lot of credit for how hard we’ve worked on this, so as you’re thinking about it, I do want you to know that I was with you in the pissed off. The feelings I’m not concerned about. The behavior is problematic.

BG: I’ll think about it, I’ll see you at four.

BB: Okay. So, we like to divide those things up, even if we’re going to sit down and give performance feedback, we’ll say, “Look, I want to spend some time with you today talking about this program or this project you put together. Here’s some things that went really well. Here are some concerns I have. I want to ask some questions about it, and we can spend maybe 30 minutes today going over it, and then let’s schedule some time to follow up tomorrow so we can think about more questions and get more answers. ” Up until, I’ve been doing this work with my therapist since COVID started, I would have told you I’m really great and really fast on my feet, which I am really good and fast on my feet, as you’ve seen.

BB: Yes.

BB: But I’m not always good, I’m just fast. And then some of the shit that I say, I really regret. And so, even if you’re fast on your feet and you don’t get flooded, I think it’s helpful to think through things.

BG: Say more about being flooded.

BB: Being flooded is really when I say to you, “This is not what I expected. When we talked about this deliverable… ” and all of a sudden you can’t think about it.

BG: I don’t hear you anymore.

BB: You don’t hear me.


BB: “Wah, wah, wah wah wah wah.”  And then what’s happening is, “I’m in trouble, what did I do wrong? I hope I don’t lose my job. Shit.” I’m like, you’re not listening, you’re not hearing, you’re going through the motions because your nervous system is like, “Uh… No. I’m out of here, and you can stay and listen to this bullshit.” The nervous system’s out.  Out. And so, we like two-parters and we like short two-parters. And give people a time to think, it also gives people that have different ways of thinking and speaking and working through things. It levels the playing field.

BG: Oh God, that’s been so hard for me to learn because I, too, am quick on my feet, but some people really need to think about what you said before they’re ready to talk about it.

BB: And, if you’re giving the feedback and you’re quick on your feet, you like to get it over with a lot of times. Not you, one. I like to get it over with and PS, I like to freakin’ win.


BG: True.

BB: Like, I like to win. “And so, the state rests its case.” You know, it’s Brené Brown v whoever’s across from me.

BG: This is a good note for your birthday coming up, I need to get you a gavel. Is that what they’re called?


BB: Yeah. I won’t say what I’m thinking, but I’ll give you a sign.

BG: Is there a censor on the podcast?

BB: No, there’s nonverbal communication across the table here. Yeah, no, it’s like I like to be judge, jury and conviction. “Therefore, I conclude that,” you know, it’s, like, terrible. We know, genetically predispositioned.

BG: I’m laughing, though, because I know it’s true, and I know you like to win and get it over with. I’ve never seen you show up with someone in a hard conversation like that, so in the back of your mind, I know that that’s spinning, but I’ve actually never seen you do that.

BB: No, because I appreciate that and I am pretty good at hard conversations, but it’s not because I’m wired to be good. It’s because between judge and jury Brené Brown and how I show up is this checklist.

BG: Yes.

BB: This is that, again, that third space? This is my practice. So, I want to win, I want to get it over with because it’s uncomfortable. I like to tap out of uncertainty as fast as possible, but I don’t do it because I’ve built muscles around it. So, let’s talk about this checklist, there are 11 of them. So if you’ve got Dare to Lead, there are only 10. Because we’ve taken a whole bunch of people, I mean 60,000?

BG: Yes. And before you go, before you jump in, I cling so much to this “clear is kind.” when I am going in to give feedback. Can you start there? Yes.

BB: Okay, so let’s back it up. So this was just a huge learning from… We’re in our 11th year of the Dare to Leadleadership research, and one of the biggest findings: clear is kind, unclear is unkind. So, to not give people feedback, to not be truthful, to not do the kind of hard coaching that we have to do as leaders, because we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings is kind of bullshit. It’s actually, we’re hiding behind that to minimize our own discomfort. And there’s nothing more devastating for people than not getting feedback. It’s like when I don’t give you feedback for growth, it’s almost like I’m saying to you, “I don’t believe that you can get better, or stronger, or be a better leader.  It’s not worth my time.” And that’s hard.

BG: Mm-hmm. That’s really hard.

BB: So clear is kind, unclear unkind. And how many companies and organizations have we gone into where people have worked there for 10 years and never received an ounce of feedback?

BG: That whole nice thing, I was so in shock when we started going into these companies. I’m sure you weren’t, but it was newer for me and I was just like… I was really surprised.

BB: Every organization thinks it’s uniquely struggling with a nice problem. We’ve got Acme Brick, nice problem, we’ve got Jones TV, nice problem. There’s a nice problem in a lot of cultures, and I can tell you right now that I have zero interest in nice, first of all, I’m much more interested in kindness than nice, because nice is performative. And 99% of the time when I ask people in the kind of “nice cultures”, “What do you do when you’re pissed off or you have a performance issue, or if you’ve got hard feedback, what do you do if you’re not talking to people?” And the answer is always, what?

BB: We talk about them.

BB: We talk about people. Neither nice nor kind.

BG: No.

BB: Yeah. So, and just…

BG: And toxic.

BB: Toxic. And it ruins people’s careers. Yeah. So, we’ll start with “clear is kind, unclear is unkind”, and let’s look at the readiness sheet. Okay, so what I was about to say is number 11 on the sheet is not in the Dare to Lead book, because we’ve taken, I think, 60,000 people across every continent in the world.  I mean all over the world, we’ve been taking people through Dare to Lead work. We have a group of Dare to Lead certified facilitators, and they’ve been taking folks through. We’ve collected data. So, as we’ve been collecting data, we have updated some of the pieces of Dare to Lead, looking for hopefully a Dare to Lead version two in 2022. All right, so this has 11, we’ll go through the 10, then I’ll talk about the 11th that we’ve added. So, I know I’m ready to give feedback when… Number one, “I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you”. So, let’s do number one and two together, “I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you, and I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us or sliding it toward you.” This has changed not only my work, but my marriage.

BG: When you’re yelling at the steering wheel, practicing this conversation, you are not ready.

BB: You are not ready, because you’re putting the problem between you as opposed to really walking around the table, physically, and putting it in front of both of you and saying, “I’ve got a concern here. Let’s start by me telling you what my concern is and checking in to see if you share the concern or if you see something different. Am I missing something?” So right off the bat, it’s vulnerable and “I’m not sure… And this is what I’m seeing.” Number three, “I’m ready to listen, ask questions and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.” I have never once in my career given feedback, daring feedback, the kind where I’m curious and ask a lot of questions.  Where I did not learn something new about the problem that I was trying to talk about, or two, I had a part.

BG: Yeah, do you remember… We had a really big circle back meeting, I don’t know, a few years ago, and the first question you asked, it was a really tough meeting, and the first question you asked was, “What do you think went wrong?” And every one of us had different answers.

BB: Yeah, that’s our story rumble process. So, this is a great thing to add. One of the things… Do you know the James Clear quote by heart?

BG: Oh no, but I can find it. Give me… Just keep talking.

BB: No, I’m going to hold for it. Pause with us. Pick us up a tea. It’s that we don’t rise to our greatest aspirations, we rise to the level of our most broken systems, is that what it is?

BG: It’s very close to that if that’s not it. “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome, your system is the collection of daily habits.”

BB: Got it. Okay. So we’re going to interview James Clear on the Dare to Lead podcast, and I can’t wait, because I have that quote on a Post-It note on my desk at home. So, the thing about courageous organizations, and the thing about courageous leaders is we can’t always depend on our courage to carry us through. So we have to develop systems within organizations that are brave systems that shore up our courage for us. Does that make sense?

BG: Yes, that we can lean into when things are so hard, you’re like, “I have this system I can lean on.”

BB: Right. And so, I don’t care how brave the collection of leaders happens to be, if the systems are not there to support courageous leadership, you’ve got a problem. So, we have developed kind of a process called the Story Rumble, when the shit really hits the fan. Do you remember what that meeting was about?

BG: It was about a business that we were starting…

BB: Oh God, yeah. Mmm, mm, mm. Yeah, this was before we had made a real strategic change in 2018, it was about a business that we were starting, and that like two other businesses we started were hugely successful in the first quarter, and I decided that they were outside of the scope of work that I wanted to be doing. This is when we thought we would start businesses to scale our work, which is always kind of a thought leader dilemma, like you’ve got ideas and you’re a researcher and you’re coming up with things that you want to share, and then, “Should I scale the work myself?” and then all of a sudden, I’m not doing research anymore or writing, I’m interviewing full-stack engineers, I don’t even know what… It’s just like, and I’m in five hour meetings about fonts.

BG: Yes, yeah.

BB: Oh God, it was a really… And this is one where… I in a very gung-ho, did not want to hear any criticism of my idea about starting this business, I’d wanted to start this business forever.  Started it, got everyone invested, put a lot of money into it and then wanted to fold it up… Six months later. Yeah.

BG: Yeah.

BB: That’s hard, y’all.

BG: That was hard, but number three reminds me of, we all thought the problem was different.

BB: Right. And so the story rumble process is starting with what story are you making up about what happened.

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: And everyone writes down the story, and everyone posts the story on the wall, on a big Post-it, at the same time to avoid the kind of bandwagon or halo effect. The halo effect is, if I go first I’ve got the most influence in the room, and so everyone kind of shapes a story that fits mine. Or the bandwagon, where you jump on what the group thinks. And so this kind of, “turn and learn,” we call it. Like turn at the same time, is really helpful. And so I think this goes back to, I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue. Number four, “I’m ready to acknowledge what you do well instead of just picking apart your mistakes.” So when you’re planning this conversation and raging at the steering wheel or laying in bed at night and thinking of all the cutting, snarky, shitty things that you can say to bring someone to their knees, you’re just not ready. Because just like in the first episode of our two-part episode, we talked about our strengths and our opportunities for growth are on the same continuum. If you attack someone and don’t help them understand how they can use their strengths to shore up what this deficit is, you’re not ready to give feedback. Does that make sense to you?

BG: Yes, totally.

BB: When you’re doing your steering wheel pretending, do you… Are you thinking…

BG: [chuckle] I’m so good at it. It doesn’t usually translate though to the feedback conversations.

BB: No. Is it anger? Is it discomfort? Like, what are we discharging in those?

BG: I think it’s probably both. I think it’s, I’m usually frustrated by how something happened. Usually it’s because I haven’t set very good boundaries, honestly.

BB: Yeah.

BG: And…Or I wasn’t clear on what I was asking for. But usually, I’m a commuter, so it’s really a great opportunity for me to just get it out, get my emotion out around it, and then I can really think about, “What was my part, how can I sit down and have a meaningful conversation,” to make sure we understand what are the key learnings and how do we embed them so we don’t do it again?

BB: That’s beautiful. Yeah, that’s right. I’m not a commuter, I live really close to work, so I do it at night in my bed. “And then I’m going to say this and then they are going to be… ”

BG: That’s why you don’t sleep. You need to just drive around your neighborhood.

BB: Yeah, I do. And put someone’s picture in the center of my steering wheel.

BG: I don’t do that. That might go take it too far.


BB: I like it. I’m a visual person. I’m a visual learner. Number five, “I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.” Which is… It’s really interesting, I started using this when I was teaching graduate, PhD and Master students, and I still use it. In fact, I’m teaching an MBA class right now at UT Austin. And one of the things I do is I force… You know, when we do peer feedback, when people do their presentations, I require people to frame their, “What you could do better in terms of what skills I saw you display.”

BG: I love that.

BB: Yeah, so they’re usually presentations. So, you know “In this part of the presentation you really drew me in and it emotionally resonated with me, so I was hooked and listening, and I think this part of the presentation would have benefited by more of an emotional hook to go along with the facts, not just the facts.” So, and this is Dennis Saleebey from social work. He developed this thing called the strengths perspective. And it’s really helpful, too, because even when we look at what some people would call clinical pathology, a social work perspective is very different. We look at sometimes at adults or teenagers and say, “What coping mechanisms did you develop to survive what you come from?”

BG: Yeah.

BB: And instead of diagnosing those, “Wow, you survived this and this is how you did it, and maybe some of it is manipulating or splitting, but now these don’t serve you anymore and they’re costing you genuine connection with other people.” And so,  it’s really hard, because people say, “Oh, you mean like just look at the sunny side of shit? Hell no.” It’s so hard. And so, for me, it’s much easier for me to say, “I’m super dependable. If you need something from me, I’m very dependable.” That dependability can also slip into caregiving. And so, I have to straddle the tension of, “What are the right boundaries to be dependable and kind, but also let other people take care of their own shit?”

BG: Oh, Amen.

BB: Yeah.

BG: Oh wait, before you leave number five. We hired a group of new people this summer, amazing group of people, and one of the things I talked to them a lot about in onboarding was, “There will be areas where you feel out of your wheelhouse, and there will be areas where you feel really grounded in your confidence, and how can you borrow some of that grounded confidence in those areas to help you skill-build in other areas?”

BB: Oh my god, that’s it. That’s so great. And how did they answer?

BG: I think they were a little flooded by all the information. [chuckle] But I talked about it actually in my own professional coaching, because there are areas where I feel really grounded in my confidence, and then I’m like, “How can I take what I’m really grounded in and apply it to the things that I’m still really learning?”

BB: I mean that is grounded confidence, and that is the difference between people who are invested in mastery versus short-term success.

BG: Yeah, and it’s interesting here because, in giving feedback, they might not see that. They might not see that, “Oh, I actually perceive you to be very grounded in your confidence over here; is there something from here that you can borrow to use over here?”

BB: Yeah. And even surfacing the question: “You have two or three really strong areas of grounded confidence, why do you think it slips here? Why do you think the self-trust, why do you think you question yourself here? “

BG: Totally, that’s great.

BB: Yeah.


BB: Number six, “I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.” Okay. The world sucks at this.

BG: I was going to say, BBEARG, we are really good at this. It’s the work we do.

BB: We’re great at it, because we skill-build around it. I mean, it’s just… We’re good at it because like a three-point free throw, we’ve made 10,596 of them, so we could make two or three in a row and it’s not shocking because we’ve missed 10,500 and whatever number I said minus three.

BG: I will say that when I’m blaming the steering wheel a lot, I have to be careful when I’m blaming, because then I have to really think about my part in it.

BB: Oh, for sure. And I don’t think we shame… Think about this way; what is the research definition of blame? The discharging of anger and discomfort. So when you’re blaming the steering wheel, you’re just discharging the anger and discomfort, and I think sometimes for me it’s a necessary process to get to where I’m the leader I want to be in an actual feedback thing, in a feedback session.

BG: Great. So then I can keep blaming the steering wheel, and just don’t bring it into my feedback session.

BB: Yes. No. It’s like therapy. It’s like I say all the stuff I’m not allowed to say in the world to someone who holds space for it and is not judgmental and says, “What’s underneath that?” And I’ll say, “I’m pissed, I’m hurt, I’m disappointed.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: You know, and so I think we can let ourselves feel.  I mean what are you going to do with emotion? Pretend like you don’t feel it? Like it’s a massive energy. It’s not going anywhere. Like you’ve got to take it out…

BG: I’ve already told you that was one of my hardest feedback, my emotional reaction.

BB: Yeah, so be with the steering wheel.

BG: [chuckle] I am going to be with… Not one with the steering wheel, but just with the steering wheel.

BB: Yeah. That’s right. And the world sucks at it. I think about this news article from Austin, in this kind of wealthy school district where a parent ran up and pulled the mask off of a teacher, physically pulled the mask off a teacher at a meeting about how they were going to deal with COVID when school got back. And it’s like, we shame her, the person who did it, belittle, put down, it fuels this mask versus no mask. No. That’s assault.

BG: Yes.

BB: Like you’re tried, we are held accountable, and you serve whatever time or community service or whatever that is, and then fewer people will do that. But we don’t do it, we don’t follow through on accountability, because holding people accountable is really vulnerable. Like it’s really vulnerable. It takes a long time, it’s a lot of work to say, “This was not okay, and this is the consequence of that.” And it’s almost like our own discomfort gets in the way of letting people experience the consequences of their own choices and behavior.

BG: Oh, man.

BB: Do you know what I mean?

BG: Yes.

BB: Like, I remember a principal saying that they had a teacher, working with a school district and they had a teacher that was always on their phone, and always on their phone. And I’m like, “I don’t get it, you’re this person’s boss. So you put her down, you put her down in front of other teachers in the faculty lounge, you shame her, but you don’t ever hold her accountable.” Like, I don’t get it. You know, it’s our own fear, our own unwillingness to choose courage over comfort that keeps us from holding people accountable, but then we’re also frickin’ enraged and resentful all the time. So then we call people names on Twitter and we are horrible, but we never actually hold people accountable. And, you only have to watch someone in an organization do something that’s out of order, out of bounds, against the rules, and not be held accountable, to know you can pretty much do whatever you want. The only price is you might get yelled at or put down. Like there’s no accountability. Like follow through. It’s like parents who say to your kids, “Man, next time you do that I’m… That’s it.” And they do it 10 times and they’re like, “Oh, there’s no consequence here.”

BG: Yeah.

BB: Yeah. For children, not having follow-through and accountability instills deep distrust and anxiety in kids, because they don’t understand what’s real and what’s not real. And there are no guard rails.

BG: Yeah.

BB: I think in organizations it just drives disengagement and really gives permission for outrageous behavior. And I think you’ve seen it politically here over the last four years, like just no accountability.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Number seven, “I’m open to owning my part.” I normally always have a part; do you?

BG: Yes. Even when I’m 100% sure walking in I don’t have one.

BB: Me too.

BG:  I totally have one.

BB: I sometimes the more sure I am that I have no part, sometimes I’ll be like, I had zero part in this, but I’m going to ask the question.

BG: Yep.

BB: I have huge parts, like in my blind spot.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Number eight, “I can genuinely thank someone for their efforts rather than just criticizing them for their failures.” Are you willing to go in and see a whole person?

BG: Yes.

BB: And not some bullshit, “Hey, thank you for these three things that you do well, now let me tell you why you suck.” But genuinely being grateful.

BG: Yes.

BB: Nine, “I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to growth and opportunity.” And this is where leadership is coach. I can talk about, “Hey, Barrett, here’s a concern I see. It’s come up before. I want to dig into it with you, I want to know what I can be doing better, and I think we have a real opportunity to level up if we can figure this out.”

BG: Yes. Because then leveling up is only going to level you up.

BB: That’s right. Yeah, and it’s your job as a leader to level up everyone around you.

BG: Yes.

BB: 10, “I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.”

BG: [chuckle] Yeah!

BB: Yeah, I think by the time you work through the first nine…

BG: [chuckle] Yes, and you’re done with your steering wheel.

BB: And you’re done with the steering wheel, and working out your anger or frustration or fear… And I think that’s why…I mean, let’s pause and say, “how often do you and I role play these hard conversations with each other?”

BG: Oh yes, totally.

BB: I mean let me tell y’all, no bullshit, I mean just totally honest, I bet 90% of the time we role play these, and the way we do it, the way Barrett and I do it, and the way I do it with other people, I lead, is I will have them be the person that they have to give feedback to, so they have the opportunity to say all the stuff and react in ways that they’re scared about sitting across from. So I’ll say, “Okay, Barrett, you be this person and I’ll be you.” And then Barrett will say all the things she’s afraid of hearing.

BG: Yep.

BB: And, you know, it’s like, these are people’s lives, these are people’s… How they think about themselves; hopefully not their self-worth, hopefully that’s not on the line, but sometimes it is, so why wouldn’t we take pride as daring leaders in saying, “Yeah, I practice that stuff.”

BG: Yeah, I agree. I was in a coaching session one time with someone who reported to me, and she’s like, “I want to take the ball and I want to run with it. Sometimes I just want to make sure I’m running in the right direction.” And every… Since she said that, I was like, she deserves to know she’s running in the right direction. I mean, she deserves that.

BB: Yeah, until she’s half way down the field and you’re like, “What are you doing? Why are you down there?”

BG: [chuckle] Yes.

BB: “What the hell?”

BG: Totally. [laughter]

BB: You know? Like…

BG: Yes. It’s so familiar.

BB: It’s so familiar. Yeah.

BG: Yeah. But that’s, and one thing I love about us is that we don’t just give feedback when we’re sitting down for our big goals meeting. I mean, we do it…

BB: Every day.

BG: Every day. We’re never surprised in our goals meetings by big things that are getting in the way, because we’re always talking about them.

BB: And we expect the people that we lead to be having hard conversations with their colleagues and their peers.

BG: Yes. And to us.

BB: Yeah.

BG: And back to us.

BB: Yes. Oh, definitely.

BG: Yeah.

BB: That’s a given, like… Yeah. Let me know; what was that like for you, what could I have done better? You seem shut down about how this went, I want to know what this was like for you.

BG: Yes.

BB: Did I show up in a way that shut you down? And a lot of times I’ll say, “Listen, I need you to talk to this person about this before the close of business today. This is a fresh thing, do you want to role play it? Do you want to talk it through? What do you want to do?”

BG: Yep.

BB: Yeah. Last one, 11, “I’m aware of power dynamics, implicit bias and stereotypes.” And this is so important, because we need to think through, “What am I bringing to the room? What assumptions am I making about people based on race, ethnicity, gender, age?” If there’s a difference between… There’s always difference between people, but if there are identity differences between people, how do I need to be intentional and thoughtful about those? And if you think, “I don’t need to” that’s wrong. There are always those issues, and daring leaders say the unsaid and surface what’s been pushed down, and bring to light the stuff that’s in the shadows in the corners. And so part of this is thinking how… Even if it’s just going in with an awareness…

BG: Yeah, because I was going to say, sometimes the most difficult thing is when someone else brings up something that you don’t believe to be their truth, that you don’t understand, and don’t make room for, and just kind of close it down so it doesn’t happen again.

BB: That’s right. That’s right. You just shut people down.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Because it’s not how you see the world.

BG: Mm-hmm.

BB: I think one of the most surefire ways to address this is curiosity and openness.

BG: Yeah.

BB: All right, this is the Engaged Feedback checklist. We’ll put it on the episode page. Also, it’s on the Dare to Lead hub, right?

BG: Yeah, can we put the one with all 11 on the episode page?

BB: Yeah, let’s do it. We’ll put the new one on there from the new research. Clear is kind, y’all; unclear unkind. And this is like, if this leaves you feeling just kind of shitty and weird and awkward, it’s because, just like building muscles, you’re going to feel it.

BG: It is shitty, weird and awkward.

BB: Yeah.


BB: If it feels like that, it’s because, hey, y’all, it is.

BG: But have you ever gotten to the end of one and been like, “Shit, I wish I wouldn’t have done that?”

BB: No.

BG: No.

BB: No, because I don’t get to the end and wish I would have done it differently. If I wish I would have done it differently, it’s not the end. For me.

BG: Oh, well we have mics; how do you drop them?


BB: No. Yeah. If it’s the end and it was not good, then I’m going to circle back…

BG: Circle back. Yeah.

BB: And I’m going to say, “I don’t like the way I showed up in that meeting, or I don’t like the way I felt when we left, and if you’re willing, I’d like to stick with this until we get to a place that feels good between us.” Not easy…

BG: Yeah.

BB: But right.

BG: God dang. How many marbles did you just get in that jar?

BB: Oh, it’s a big trust earner.

BG: Yeah.

BB: Yeah, but I’m pretty… I don’t know about fearless, but I’m close to fearless around the circle back.

BG: Oh, me too. It’s such a gift.

BB: Yeah. I think sometimes you earn more trust if you screw it up and circle back than if you would have done it really well.

BG: I totally agree.

BB: Yeah. Not to say that you should screw it up intentionally so you can circle back.

BG: But we’re all learning together.

BB: Yeah. I’ll say stuff like, “You know, when you replied this way, I said this and I saw something shift in you; I felt like the space between us went from open and curious together to weird, and I just want to check in.” You know, that’s it. This is the stuff that can change the world, right?

BG: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Feedback, hard conversations. And feedback is hard conversation.

BB: That’s it.


BB: All right, y’all, thank you for listening to Dare to Lead on Spotify. I really appreciate it. Barrett, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us on these two episodes.

BG: My pleasure.

BB: You can find our episode page on You can find both Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us on Spotify. Stay awkward, brave and kind, y’all.

BB: The Dare to Lead podcast is a Spotify original from Parcast. It’s hosted by me, Brené Brown, produced by Max Cutler, Kristen Acevedo, Carleigh Madden, and Tristan McNeil, and by Weird Lucy Productions. Sound design by Tristan McNeil, and the music is by The Suffers.


© 2021 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2021, September 27). Brené with Barrett Guillen on the Hardest Feedback I’ve Ever Received, Part 2 of 2. [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Parcast Network.

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